Silver Arrives

by Ted Alspach September 09, 2019

Silver Arrives

Silver Arrives

by Ted Alspach

 

On setup day at Gen Con this past August, we sold the first copy of Silver. To Alan R. Moon.

Ted Alspach & Alan Moon

The designer of Ticket to Ride, Elfenland, and dozens of other games stopped by to say hi, but the topic quickly turned to Silver. He really wanted to pick up a copy if we wouldn’t mind selling one before the show started, as he was both a fan of CABO and he’d heard good things about Silver from people who had played it at the Alan’s Gathering of Friends event this past April.

It was a great way to start Gen Con for our team, which was capped off by selling out of the 500 copies we had airshipped in from overseas for the show. We estimated that we demoed the game to about 800 people at our booth, or about 200 different groups. It was the first major public unveiling of Silver, and our six demo tables were full from open to close of the exhibit hall each day. The only bad news was we were going to have to wait over a month to get the rest of our copies, which were on a cargo ship slowly making their way to the US.    

     

 

I Really Don’t Like Memory Games

Like most gamers, there are games that just don’t click for me. Co-ops, war games, and memory games fall into that bucket. I’ve always thought that memory games tend to favor people who have better memories, which is more of an innate ability than a learned skill; and I don’t have a particularly good memory.

The original version of CABO had a bit more of a memory element than I preferred, with the challenge of tracking a lot of moving, facedown cards. In both the second edition of CABO and in Silver, we addressed that by essentially making any card that everyone has seen stay faceup. This not only makes memory much less of an issue in the game, but also opens up all sorts of new functionality in Silver.

In doing this, the memory element of Silver is limited typically to two or three cards, though occasionally you’ll want to remember more of them. What’s interesting is that remembering your cards becomes a lot easier once you’ve played the game a bit, because instead of thinking about abstract numbers on the cards, you’re thinking about what you want to do with those cards. Usually, you’re either looking for a matching card (so you can get rid of a pair or more), or you’re hoping to get a card with the ability to turn a low card over so that you can use its ability. This makes the game less about remembering cards, and more about strategizing what you might do with those cards. Because you’re thinking about your hidden cards in a practical manor, you end up remembering them automatically.

That’s the difference between a game like Silver and something that’s primarily memory-based, like Concentration. Developing Silver was still a little more challenging than most games, though, because when I’m playtesting a game I’m thinking on a few different tracks: not only what I should be doing to play the game well, but how and why other players are playing. Keeping all of those things straight is definitely something that gets better with practice, but adding in the minor memory element of Silver required an additional level of focus.

     

 

 

Playtesting with the Bezier Games Team

Our office is pretty small: we have seven full time employees, but everyone likes playing games, so there’s always a nice pool of playtesters to try out new games as they’re being worked on. The first few games of anything I introduce the team to I’ll do really well, because I know the rules already, and I’ve played the game dozens of times already. I can focus on how the other players are playing and reacting to different game elements, and I’ll end up winning, sometimes by a huge margin. But shortly thereafter, the tables are turned, and as I continue to focus on how the other players are playing, they start to eke out a few wins.

After dozens of internal playtests, I’m more of a participant than a threat, as the team has mastered the game and are playing on a much higher level than I’m able to, since I’m working on the nuances of refining the game. And Silver is no exception to this, as I’m thinking about tweaks to cards instead of focusing on my own cards and how to play best, and I’m regularly crushed by the staff, much to their amusement.

One of the great things about some of the internal playtesting, unlike most playtests with people outside of the company, is that I have an opportunity to see what the longevity of a game will be. Just seeing the response to asking if they are up for playtesting more Silver (as we test new cards and different future deck combinations) gives me a good idea of how well the game will hold up over time.

Most games don’t get played more than five or six times. Our goal for any game we publish is for it to be played dozens of times by our customers, with enough variability and replayability to keep the game fresh months, if not years, after it is first played. Silver is one of those games.

    

 

The Many Releases of Silver

As I write this, we’re about to send out copies of Silver to all the people who preordered the game. This is the second of four waves of players: the initial group of Gen Con attendees who picked up a copy at the show in August, the folks who preordered or order directly from us starting September 9th or thereabouts, the much larger group of people who purchase the game once it shows up at their FLGS and Amazon and other places on October 2nd, and finally the mostly-European players who will get a copy at Essen Spiel in late October.

Each wave is distinct: most people who purchased a copy at Gen Con either played the game there or tried it out using the free Silver app. The people who preordered have just read reviews of the game, with some of them playing the free Silver app. The third wave, the major release of the game, will have the most new players trying out the game after they purchase it, based on word of mouth, reviews, and recommendations from friends. And the fourth wave is unique, because Silver Bullet will launch at Essen, and both games will be available for the first time for most of the visitors to the show, with most of them not having played the original game at all (though we’ll have lots of demo tables set up for them to try it).

Each of these groups of people represents different challenges for Bezier Games’ marketing team, and coordinating this (along with our other major release, Suburbia Collector’s Edition) is a huge undertaking. Fortunately, we’ve assembled an amazing team that knows Silver inside and out, and can communicate to each of these groups, which allows me to focus on the next games in the Silver line, at least two of which will come out in 2020.

  

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Ted Alspach
Ted Alspach

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